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Bengal cats are a curiosity as they look like a wildcat but, once you get to know each other, you will discover how sweet and loveable they are.
Keeping a Bengal cat can be legally complex. This is because of their breeding history. Nevertheless, you will not regret should you decide to keep one as your pet.
If you are interested in this particular breed of cat, then you should read on as this article will discuss everything there is to know about the majestic Bengal cat.
History of the Bengal Cat
Bengal cats are a relatively new breed. Although they were first described in the 1880s by Harrison Weir, they were not officially accepted until the 80s and 90s.
Bengal cats are created by cross-breeding the Asian leopard cat with a domestic cat. This was first done by conservationist Jean Mill of California in 1963.
Domestic cats usually chosen for the breeding process are short-haired breeds which include the Egyptian Mau, the Abyssinian, or Burmese cats.
The purpose of this is to get a cat with the looks of a leopard while taming the wild nature of one parent with the calmer and more affectionate demeanor of the other.
After the first batch of Bengal cats had been produced, many other breeders followed suit, with the International Car Association, or TICA, officially accepting the breed in 1983.
This was followed by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1997, the Australian Cat Federation and International Feline Federation in 1999, and lately the Cat Fanciers’ Association which only accepted the Bengal cat into their registries in 2016.
As of 2019, there are a little under 2,500 registered Bengal cat breeders worldwide, based on statistics provided by TICA. This makes them one of the most popular cat breeds in the world today.
Typical Appearance of Bengal Cats
The most distinguishable characteristic of Bengal cats is their coats. They are the only breed of domesticated cats with rosette markings, making them appear like miniature leopards.
They can also have marbled coats and have a unique sheen on the tips of their coats. This latter characteristic is called a glitter coat and is highly valued.
The colors and markings of Bengal cats are widely varied, ranging from black, red, brown, silver, and a variety of others. Their fur is soft and does not shed a lot, requiring minimal grooming.
Eyes can range from brown, orange, green, and yellow, although a variety of other colored eyes in the breed also exist.
For the body, Bengal cats are often considered average to large-sized, with weights ranging from 8 to 15 pounds. Bodies are slender, lean, and muscular. Males are typically larger than females, and their heights can reach anywhere from 8 to 10 inches.
Bengal cats have strong rear legs that are longer than the front legs. This makes them spectacular jumpers and can reach better heights than other cat breeds.
There have also been instances of Bengal cats having longer hairs than usual. Longer hair is a recessive gene which makes this variety particularly rare especially since early breeders do not desire this quality and have had cats with this gene spayed or neutered.
In some organizations, these are registered under the names “Bengal Longhair” or “Cashmere Bengal”.
Bengal Cat Behavior and Temperament
Despite looking like a leopard, Bengal cats are quite sweet and affectionate. They often love to be around family members and will communicate with them through vocalizations.
Bengal cats are extremely playful and active. They require lots of exercise as well as attention. If they are not able to get it, Bengal cats may look for other things to do to pass the time, often leading to disruptive behavior.
Bengal cats are seldom lazy. They are extremely curious and will explore areas in the house and the yard. They might also knock down items just for the sheer fun of it. Bengal cats are not lap cats but will cuddle and nuzzle from time to time.
This cat breed is also very smart. Bengal cats are easy to train and can be walked with a leash. They also like to climb, jump around, and play in water when given the opportunity. They can also be taught to retrieve items for you when trained early and properly.
Bengal cats have instinctive behavior as well. This includes being territorial and predatory. They do not like it when other animals, even those belonging to the same household, invade their personal space especially when eating.
Bengal cats will climb trees and hunt birds if given the opportunity. They may also chase down and kill smaller creatures such as mice, especially if they are not mentally or physically stimulated.
Bengal Cat Health Problems
Bengal cats can generally live anywhere between 9 to 15 years. While a relatively healthy breed, Bengal cats can suffer from a variety of genetical conditions that can shorten their lives or otherwise affect their quality of living.
Hypertrophic myocardiopathy is a condition where the muscles of the heart become thick. This causes the heart to pump harder and can increase the risk of congestive heart failure or cardiac arrest caused by blood clots that would otherwise not greatly affect a healthy heart.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA, is the degeneration of the retina. For Bengal cats, this is usually inherited and can be diagnosed as early as 2 to 3 months for kittens.
Symptoms of PRA may include clumsiness, aversion to the dark, or light that reflects more light than usual. There is currently no treatment for progressive retinal atrophy, although the use of medication may help slow down the progression of the disease.
Allergy to Anesthetics
Bengal cats may be highly susceptible to anesthetics. Bengal cats that suffer from allergic reactions may be prone to cardiac arrest. This makes Bengal cats very difficult to operate on, even for such minor procedures such as spaying.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis
Feline infectious peritonitis is a viral disease that causes the immune system to overreact to seemingly minor infections. This can damage vital organs and can be fatal to cats.
This condition is caused by a virus that can be transmitted via feces from an infected cat.
Up until recently, FIP is considered to be a non-treatable disease. However, a drug similar to remdesivir has been shown to have a lot of promise and is currently under development and testing.
Flat Chested Kitten Syndrome
In some cases, kittens are born with an abnormality in the chest structure. This undeveloped chest will result in a flat chest which can cause some difficulty in breathing and even death.
Making sure that the cat is getting enough oxygen as well as supplementing nutrition are the only ways to help a cat with this condition survive. Oftentimes, antibiotics and steroids are also provided to help prevent or cure any lung infections that can further worsen the condition.
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency
PK deficiency is another common genetic problem found in cats. This causes anemia in cats and, if left to worsen, can potentially lead to death.
Fortunately, PK deficiency is not often fatal. However, many breeders do have their cats tested so that the disease does not get passed along to any offspring.
Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by a variety of things such as metabolic disorders, a tumor in the spine, or phantom pain caused by amputation of the legs.
Cats will often cry out or lick the area affected by the pain. Medication is often required to provide comfort to the cat. These often come in the form of analgesics, pain relievers, or anti-seizure drugs such as gabapentin.
Ulcerative Nasal Dermatitis
Bengal cats may also be prone to ulcerative dermatitis that primarily affects the nose. This is considered a hereditary condition and can be itchy. Steroidal treatments are often done to control the condition, although the disease itself is considered to be incurable.
Joint issues such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation are also common in Bengal cats. This condition often causes pain and can cause dislocation of the joints.
Oftentimes, the condition treats itself, although most of the time medication to reduce pain as well as surgery for severe cases may be required.
Taking Care of Your Bengal Cat
Healthy Bengal cats are relatively low maintenance. They are good at cleaning themselves up and do not shed a lot of fur. Pet owners are recommended to brush their cats at least once a week to prevent the accumulation of tangles as well as to remove dead skin cells.
Owners may also take this time to check for any wounds and parasites such as ticks.
The bulk of taking care of Bengal cats lies in keeping them healthy and active. Constant activity will help prevent obesity, and it can also help in improving the behavior and mood of your cat.
Owners must set aside about an hour per day to play and interact with the cat. These games must be physical in nature, preferably simulating hunting.
You can also let your cat out in the yard to climb and run around. This is best for people with small homes but large backyards. It is important to keep other cats away, though, and to keep your cat from running off into the street.
Providing toys to play with and structures to climb are other good ways to keep your Bengal cat away from trouble.
Bengal cats are independent and can be left alone in the home for several hours. However, if bored, they will naturally explore and can cause damage to the home in order to entertain themselves.
Many Bengal cats are highly disciplined and know how to get along with both humans and other animals. However, they can scratch or bite if they feel that they are being threatened. This can include harsh play or heavy petting.
As such, those with children are recommended to teach their kids how to treat their cats gently and with respect. It is also not recommended to have two Bengal cats together in a single home.
Is Owning Bengal Cats Legal?
Owning and importing Bengal cats can be complicated, depending on the country. There are different regulations with regards to having Bengal cars as a pet which usually pertains to the F-number of the cat in question.
Like the Savannah cat, crosses between wild and domesticated cats are traced and designated by an F-number. A Bengal cat that is a direct child of the leopard cat, for example, is numbered F1.
In the UK, F2 categorized Bengal cats, meaning those with leopard cats as grandfathers, no longer require a Dangerous Wild Animal License.
In other parts of the US, Bengal cats must be at least four generations removed from the leopard cat to be deemed domesticated and thus legal to own.
If you intend to own a Bengal cat, you should check with your local regulations as well as the F-number of the cat that you intend to get to avoid legal trouble.
Famous People Who Have Owned Bengal Cats
Throughout the years, many famous people have owned Bengal cats. This caused the popularity of these breeds to surge due to the promotion of this breed by some celebrities.
One of the most prominent promoters of the Bengal cat is Ian Andersen, a member of the rock group Jethro Tull.
Other celebrities who have owned Bengal cats are Kourtney Kardashian, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Seinfeld, and Kristen Stewart.
Some Bengal cats even have their own social media pages, further helping in the rise and recognition of this particular cat breed.
Bengal cats have a very unique look and a loveable personality. This makes them very popular as pets for homes.
While Bengal cats are very low maintenance, they still require a level of care and, of course, lots of love and attention.
Learn more about Bengal cats as well as proper pet care and your cat will certainly have a long and happy life.